President Trump’s voter-fraud commission made news when states refused to share personal voter data with it. But considering the fact that the U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rate among the democracies, maybe we should be more grateful to the few people who sneak into the polls to vote illegally.
Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:
Next month Angelenos will head to the polls to pick close to half of the 15-member City Council that governs much of their day-to-day life.
Well, that’s a bit of a stretch.
Not all Angelenos will be showing up at the polls. Not even most of those registered to vote. Among that elite subset of Southern California residents, it would be surprising if even 1 out of 7 shows up to exercise the franchise that previous generations of Americans fought and died to obtain and retain.
“Some City Hall watchers expect another weak election turnout next month, perhaps establishing a new modern-day low. In the mayoral primary election in 2013, only about 1 in 5 registered city voters went to the polls. In the last non-mayoral City Council election — the most comparable to this year’s campaign cycle — turnout was a third less, about 14%,” reports Soumya Karlamangla of The Times.
As a better-educated, smarter friend of mine likes to point out, voting doesn’t make any difference. Literally. It’s simple logic: The only vote you can control is your own. (Insert joke here about Chicago, the Daley machine and the ability to summon the dead to key elections.) Since you only have one vote to cast, and the chance of an election being decided by a single vote is close to nil, your vote rarely affects the outcome.
Voting, if you do it, is a civic ritual. Like praying, you know that it really doesn’t work, but the act of participating in the ritual connects you to, in the case of voting, the government that purports to represent you. So when the candidate you voted for wins, you feel as if she really is there for you. Conversely, you can always point out that you voted for the other guy if the one who won does a terrible job.
Los Angeles’ amazing shrinking voter turnouts, however, could make every vote count to an extent that neither I nor my pal has previously had to consider. It’s simple math: The fewer people show up to vote, the more your vote matters. In a real, although undeniably weird way, it is in your individual interest – if you are a voter – for no one else to vote.
Behold a paradox of democracy: The fewer people participate, the more powerful the ballot box becomes for those who do.
From the New York Times, August 19, 2014: “Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power – hence the demonstrations – seems like an obviously good idea; and one that’s particularly compelling because it’s so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.” The establishment, especially Democrats, are starting voter registration drives and using Ferguson as a rallying cry in black communities. According to the statistics, blacks are 7% short of no longer falling prey to trigger-happy white cops.
Both Zombie Parties Too Stubborn To Admit They’re Dead
Neither party gets it.
They both think they won. And they sort of did.
But we still hate them.
Democrats are patting themselves on the back, congratulating themselves for a mandate that neither exists–50.4% to 48.1% does not a mandate make–nor, if were real, would be actionable (Republicans still control the House). “Republicans need to have a serious talk with themselves, and they need to change,” Democratic columnist E.J. Dionne sniped in the Washington Post.
Not likely. If Republicans could change anything, it would be the weather. “If you hadn’t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy,” Karl Rove told the Post. (Which leaves out the fact that the places hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, New York and New Jersey, are not GOP states.)
“We [Congressional Republicans] will have as much of a mandate as he [Obama] will,” claimed Speaker John Boehner.
The donkeys and the elephants think they’re awesome. Their plan to govern America for the next four years? Keep on keeping on. Why change?
Both parties are insane and self-delusional.
Voters are narrowly divided between the Ds and the Rs–because we can’t decide which one we hate most.
One out of three people think the two-party system is broken, and complain that neither party represents their political views.
A staggering number of people are boycotting quadrennial exercises in pseudodemocracy. Despite the advent of convenient early voting by mail, Election Day 2012 saw a “major plunge in turnout nationally” compared to 2008. About 42.5% of registered voters stayed home this year.
There were a substantial number of protest votes.
In one of the most ignored and interesting stories coming out of Election Day, one and a half million people voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Since Johnson and Stein were even more thoroughly censored than previous third-party candidates–Johnson and Stein were denied interviews on the major networks and locked out of the presidential debates–many of these votes must have been for “none of the above.”
Democrats didn’t win this election.
Neither did the Republicans.
Give the parties credit: They’ve united us in our contempt. Liberals and progressives hate the Democrats, which takes their votes for granted and ignores them. Conservatives hate the GOP for the same reasons. And moderates hate both parties because they don’t get along.
Who won? Not us.
Since the economy collapsed in 2008, Americans have made consistently clear what their number-one priority was: jobs. Yet the two major parties have focused on anything but.
The Tea Party convinced Republicans to campaign on paying down the national debt. Deficits, the debt and entitlements are important–but those problems are not nearly as urgent as unemployment and underemployment. When you’ve lost your job–as millions of Americans have since 2008–you need a new job now. Not next week. Not next year. NOW. You sure don’t need a job next decade–and that’s if you believe that austerity stimulates the economy. “Romney is not offering a plausible solution to the [unemployment] crisis,” Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine back in June. Romney never did.
And that’s why he lost.
Jobs were the #1 issue with voters, Obama never reduced unemployment and Romney had a credible narrative as a corporate turnaround expert. By all rights, Romney should have won. But he never delivered what voters wanted: a credible turnaround plan for the terrible jobs market–one with quick results.
Not that Obama and the Democrats have much to celebrate.
The president nearly lost to one of the worst challengers of all time, a bumbling, inarticulate Monopoly Man caricature of an evil capitalist. Democrats only picked up a few seats in Congress–this to a Republican Party whose platform on social issues was lifted from the Taliban, and whose major political figures included two rape apologists.
Like the GOP, Democrats paid lip service to the economy but never put forward a credible proposal that would have created millions of new jobs next week, not next decade. In 2009, while millions were losing their homes to foreclosure, Obama dwelled instead on healthcare reform. Like the deficits, the healthcare crisis is real and important–but it wasn’t nearly as urgent as the jobs catastrophe. Which, planted stories about fictional recoveries to the contrary, continues unabated.
Four years into an existential crisis that likely marks the final crisis of late-stage capitalism, an economic seizure of epic proportions that has impoverished tens of millions of Americans and driven many to suicide, the United States is governed by two parties that don’t have a clue about what we want or what we need.
Change? Not these guys. Not unless we force them to–or, better yet, get rid of them.
COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL
Blame Politicians’ Lies, Not Apathy
I can’t stop thinking about what Obama said about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl shot to death in Tucson.
Christina-Taylor, said the president, saw politics “through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted.”
Those are disturbing words. But not the way Obama intended.
Obama relies on a deeply flawed assumption: that becoming cynical is an inherent part of growing up.
That’s a lie. As American citizens travel the long road from childhood to adulthood to valued members of the AARP, their political system repeatedly lets them down. Cynicism is taught. Optimism is ruthlessly crushed.
People vote for politicians who break their promises. Disappointed by the limited choices offered by the two major parties, they pick one only to see it repeatedly sell out its purported principles. As year after year slips by they watch the problems they worry about go completely unaddressed, much less solved, by their so-called representatives.
On those rare occasions that “their” government impacts their lives, it does so negatively, with taxes, fines, paperwork, parking tickets. Meanwhile the pols fatten themselves and their cronies at the public trough (before moving on to the even richer private one).
Say you have an absentee parent who drinks up the grocery money and beats you up. To protect yourself you develop a bit of a shell. Who can blame you? When you finally stop talking to the deadbeat SOB, is it fair to call you cynical?
Hardly. You’re merely acknowledging reality. You’d be a fool not to.
In researching this column I found countless articles and studies that try to explain why the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates on earth. Almost all suggested ways to get more Americans to the polls. None focused on the supply side of the equation: improving politicians and politics so they become more appealing to the electorate.
Ask not, Mr. President, what Americans can do to become less cynical, but rather ask what you and your pals in D.C. can do to deserve our trust.
It’s interesting to ask why many Americans are registered to vote but rarely cast a ballot. (Usually whether or not a person is registered is the best predictor as to whether or not they actually vote.) A 2006 Pew Research survey found that 42 percent of these individuals were “bored by what goes on in Washington,” 14 percent were “angry at the government,” 32 percent said “issues in D.C. don’t affect me,” and 30 percent said “voting doesn’t change things.”
These people aren’t stupid or lazy. They’re cynical, and rightly so. They think the government is evil, irrelevant, or both. Lords knows politicians give them lots of reasons to hold those beliefs.
Start, for example, with President Obama himself.
In a September 2010 interview with Rolling Stone Obama claimed to have “accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do—and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.”
These politicians! Even in a line about keeping promises, the dude fudges facts. “Minimum”? You can’t assume a second term when you’re president. Moreover, no one who voted for Obama in 2008 wants to wait until 2016 to see the fulfillment of a 2008 promise.
Anyway, Obama has kept a mere 24 percent of his 2008 promises. That’s according to Politifact—and their assessment is generous.
Totally broken promises—promises Obama didn’t even pretend to try to keep—include the following:
He said he would close Guantánamo concentration camp.
He said he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
He said he would create a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund.
He said he would let the Bush tax cuts expire.
He said he would eliminate warrantless wiretaps.
He said he would eliminate extraordinary renditions.
He said he would eliminate torture.
He said he would create a transparent online database related to government ethics and lobbying activities.
He said he would close the revolving door between government and private sector lobbying.
He said he would create a national publicly funded healthcare system.
So many broken promises. No wonder so many optimistic kids turn into hardboiled adults.
Politicians lie and lie and lie. Then, when we notice, they accuse us of being faithless. Us! What about them?
“I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it,” Obama said. “All of us—we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
No, Mr. Obama. “All of us” don’t have to do jack. It’s not our job to take an interest in politicians. It’s the politicians’ job to take an interest in us.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL